Remembering Ambassador Joseph Verner Reed

Edward M. Gabriel (Ambassador to Morocco, 1997-2001)

Ambassador Gabriel delivered these remarks at the November 29 Memorial Service for Ambassador Joseph Verner Reed held at the United Nations in New York.

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Mr. Secretary General, Honorable Ambassadors, distinguished guests, and Joseph’s family members and colleagues of the UN, it is my honor to say a few words about our friend, Joseph Verner Reed.

Joseph once wrote to his Deputy, Dick Jackson, “Morocco is the mystery, beauty, and exoticism that I myself experienced and was witness to for four unforgettable years as US Ambassador from 1981-1985″. My fellow colleagues and I, who followed Joseph as US Ambassador, would agree with his assessment.

There are now 8 former living Ambassadors who have served in Morocco, plus one current Ambassador, all following in Joseph’s footsteps. He personally touched the lives of each of us in many ways, and brought us together as good friends. And each of us has wonderful stories about Joseph.

Ambassador Tom Riley, who served as our Ambassador to Morocco under President George W. Bush, wrote me last week to say, “I am one of many with the experience of getting my first call of congratulations upon release of my nomination from Joseph. Not my family, not the White House, not any friends, but from none other than JVR.

Frecky Vreeland, US Ambassador to Morocco under President George HW Bush, said of Joseph, “he traveled widely in what he called ‘The Kingdom.’ Time and again when I was introduced to local Moroccans as the American Ambassador, they would object, saying that they do know the ambassador in question — and flash a photo taken of themselves with Joseph”.

Mike Ussery, US Ambassador to Morocco also under President HW Bush met Joseph when he was a young political appointee at the State Department. Mike said, “He always stopped by to check on me during his trips to DC, and years later he helped me prepare for Morocco and made sure I was well received there… wonderful and kind gestures that helped me in my mission in Morocco”.

For me personally, Joseph was a mentor, friend and role model. He cared dearly that each of us succeed in a country he believed was so important to the United States. He was truly a Patriot’s patriot, and put Country ahead of personal glory.

At lunch with Joseph soon after I was nominated to be Ambassador by President Clinton, he gave me a written list of ten things I must do if I was to be successful in Morocco. Knowing of Joseph’s fame in Morocco, I was grateful for the advice and followed it in the exact order he gave it to me.

One of the ten things Joseph told me to do was get out into the countryside and see every corner of Morocco and visit as many Moroccans as I possibly could. Joseph and I actually shared one body guard, who stayed on through five US Ambassadors. His name is Bouchaib.

I remember travelling to the border of the Sahara in the Western edge of Morocco, almost to Mauritania, and asked Bouchiab, did Joseph ever come this far? Bouchaib answered, Yes Sir.

I went to the most remote and highest villages in the high Atlas, Middle Atlas and Anti Atlas, and even the small villages in the mountains of the famous Rif Mountains, where in 1904, Berber Chieftain Raisuli faced the wrath of Teddy Roosevelt for kidnapping an American. Each time during these many trips, I would ask Bouchaib, did Joseph ever come to these places? And each time he would answer, Yes Sir.

Finally, we are on the outer reaches of the desert in Eastern Morocco, past the town of Figig, within eye sight of the Algerian army in a tiny little town among Sahrawi nomadic tents. I asked Bouchaib, OK, was Joseph ever here, to which he surprisingly said No Sir. As we walked into the village and met with cheering crowds of adults and children, one young boy ran up to me and handed me a pencil, with an inscription, “compliments of Ambassador Joseph Verner Reed”! This must have been one trip that even Bouchaib missed.

That’s just the kind of man Joseph was: generous and totally engaged. Every Ambassador to Morocco was asked by Joseph if they would kindly receive a package from him every quarter. We were instructed to carefully remove the outer package containing the embassy address and underneath was another wrapping addressed to the orphanage in Azroul, Morocco. The box was filled with clothes and other useful items. I do not believe Joseph missed sending a package since 1984.

David Rockefeller said Joseph was a true ‘character’ in the very best sense of the word. “He was a man of elegance, grace, wit, flamboyance and razor sharp intellect, a diplomat’s diplomat”. He said he will miss Ambassador Reed “more than words can express. We 9 colleagues of Joseph agree with you Mr. Rockefeller.

Joseph positively affected the mission and performance of each US Ambassador to Morocco who followed, and I know that each of us would say that although we were successful in our own missions, there has been no more successful US Ambassador to Morocco before or since than Joseph Verner Reed.

Thank You.

 

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